SC sends TRAI Tariff order case back to Madras HC; demands judgement within a month

This comes a week after the Madras High Court gave a split verdict on March 2, followed by a review petition in the Supreme Court by TRAI

by exchange4media Staff
Published - Mar 13, 2018 8:54 AM Updated: Mar 13, 2018 8:54 AM

The Apex court referred the matter involving Star India and the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) back to the Madras High Court instructing it to deliver a judgement within a month.

This comes a week after the Madras High Court gave a split verdict on March 2, followed by a review petition in the Supreme Court by TRAI.

The order becomes crucial in the wake of upcoming IPL series. Incase the HC upholds the TRAI tariff order Star India will have to switch to charging consumers as per à la carte  rates and not buffet. 
Last week, the High Court had referred Star India’s petition to a third judge as the two judge bench hearing the matter could not reach any consensus.

“Since we have not been able to agree, the writ petitions may be placed before a third judge. Since the Chief Justice has delivered the dissenting judgment, the matter may be placed before the next available judge in order of seniority for nomination of the judge before whom the matter may be placed,” read the order.

The order further said that in deciding the question of whether TRAI has power under the TRAI Act to regulate content, “any concession made by Councel is inconsequential”.

“I am unable to agree that by putting a cap on the price of a bouquet, TRAI is regulating content. The broadcasters are free to choose their channels, offer single or multiple pay channels and one or more bouquets,” the Chief Justice said in the verdict.

However, he also added that putting a cap of 15% to the discount on the MRP of a bouquet disclosed into the Tariff Order is because some bouquets were being offered by the distributors of television channels at discounts of up to 80%-90% of the sum of a-la-cart rates of pay channels constituting those bouquets.

“Such high discounts force the subscribers to take bouquets only and thus reduce subscriber choice. This, in my view, cannot be a reason to restrict the discount,” he further said in the split verdict.

The verdict further stated that as a result of the ‘perverse pricing’ of bouquets the customers are misled to subscribe to bouquets rather than subscribing to a-la-cart channels of their choice and added that thus, in the process, the public, in general, end up paying for “unwanted” channels and “this, in effect, restricts subscriber choice."

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